jack russel terrier next to pile of shredded papers; dog eats something they shouldn't

Sometimes, “the dog ate my homework” really isn’t an excuse! Our curious canine friends can have a real knack for getting into things they’re not supposed to. Some pups view anything and everything as fair game—from raiding the trash can to chewing up toys, rugs, and more. Here’s what to do and expect when your dog eats something they shouldn’t. 

Things Dogs Eat (But Shouldn’t)

The reality is dogs will eat just about anything. Dogs use their mouths and noses to navigate the world, which can get them into trouble! Most often, what dogs eat falls into a few categories: 

  • Toxic foods: grapes/raisins, chocolate, garlic, onions, caffeine, alcohol, and foods sweetened with artificial sweeteners (specifically birch sugar or xylitol)

  • Medications and supplements: over-the-counter medications like Ibuprofen and Tylenol, prescription medications, vitamins, and supplements, especially chewables and tasty gummies

  • Toxic substances or chemicals: pesticides and rat baits; chemicals used in the yard or garden; automotive supplies, such as antifreeze or windshield wiper fluid; cleaning supplies, such as bleach, window cleaners, and antibacterial sprays
  • Dog toys and chews: pieces of a favorite stuffed animal, ball, or other toy; swallowing large pieces of a bone, bully stick, or other chew toy

  • Textiles and clothing: shredding and eating pet bedding or blankets; clothing (especially socks and underwear); chewing on rugs, carpets, etc.
  • Miscellaneous items: diapers, feminine hygiene products, mouthguards, retainers, and more!

If Your Dog Eats Something They Shouldn’t, Don’t Panic

First step: stay calm! Keeping a level head will help you evaluate the situation and take appropriate action. If you can, immediately remove anything your dog is still trying to eat and remove your dog from the area. Once your dog is secured, it’s time to play detective. If your dog ate a no-no food, look for any nearby plastic, wrappers, or packaging. Food wrappers may contain important information for your vet. 

If your dog eats something toxic… 

You’ll need to act quickly! Symptoms of poisoning can vary largely depending on your pet’s size, age, and the amount they ingested. While some poisons will immediately affect your pet’s well-being, others have less visible, long-term consequences. 

Generally, if your dog has eaten something they shouldn’t—food, medications, or other known toxic substances—contact your veterinarian, the nearest vet emergency, or a pet poison control center ASAP. These veterinary medical experts can help you assess the situation and come up with an informed action plan:

*Keep in mind that a fee may apply when calling for poison-related situations.​

If your dog eats a non-food item… 

From diapers to drywall, dogs can work up an appetite for almost anything. Swallowed objects, like toys and remote controls, are dangerous because they can get stuck passing through the intestines. This leads to a bowel obstruction, also known as a gastrointestinal blockage. During bowel obstruction, food and water can’t flow normally through the GI tract. If left untreated, an intestinal blockage can even be fatal for a dog within 3-7 days. 

Signs of bowel obstruction in dogs include: 

  • Vomiting, especially repeated vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Straining or unable to poop
  • Painful, swollen abdomen
  • Restlessness or aggression when you touch their belly

Whether you saw your dog eat something they shouldn’t or just suspect they did, the above symptoms warrant a trip to the vet! Your dog’s medical team will perform a thorough exam. Your vet may also recommend x-rays or veterinary ultrasound to see if there’s a foreign body causing GI obstruction. 

When In Doubt, Call Your Veterinarian!

It’s just a fact of life that dogs eat things they shouldn’t. And while some things will pass without serious consequences, others can be life-threatening. Regarding your pets’ health, we say it’s better to be safe than sorry! At Pine Point Animal Hospital, we work with pet owners to assess what happened, come up with a treatment plan, and adapt recommendations based on how your pet’s symptoms do or don’t progress. When you act quickly, we have more treatment options available and can potentially avoid going to surgery. 

If you have any questions about pet-proofing your home, our team is happy to help. Bring a list of pet-proofing questions to your next visit, and we can work together to ensure your space is pet-friendly! 


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